England in the summer of 1979 meant MOD, and it was then that the Lambrettas were formed near the south coast city of Brighton. The original members were: Jez Bird (vocals/guitar), Doug Sanders (guitar/vocals), Mark Ellis (bass), and Paul Wincer (drums). The band first performed on June 9, 1979, playing at an all-day Mod concert held in the ballroom at the end of Hastings pier. The band played various venues around England, then in August were spotted by Elton John’s Rocket Records label. A Roc...
England in the summer of 1979 meant MOD, and it was then that the Lambrettas were formed near the south coast city of Brighton. The original members were: Jez Bird (vocals/guitar), Doug Sanders (guitar/vocals), Mark Ellis (bass), and Paul Wincer (drums). The band first performed on June 9, 1979, playing at an all-day Mod concert held in the ballroom at the end of Hastings pier.
The band played various venues around England, then in August were spotted by Elton John’s Rocket Records label. A Rocket album -- named "499-2139" -- featured a dozen new and unknown bands and included the Lambrettas' first recording, Go Steady.
In November of 1979, Rocket released the Lambrettas track as a single. By the early part of 1980, Go Steady had sold modestly, but with enough interest to persuade Rocket to sign the band.
The next release was a cover of the 1950s Lieber/Stoller song, Poison Ivy, previously recorded most notably by The Coasters and The Rolling Stones. The Lambrettas version, with brass arrangements, had a decidedly upbeat "ska" feel to it. The record was a huge success, reaching #7 in the British charts, and earning the band a silver disc for sales in excess of 250,000.
The next single, Da-a-ance, was more typical of the band’s pop/rock sound, reaching #12 in the charts. Controversy occurred when they were about to release another cut from their debut album, Beat Boys In The Jet Age. At the last moment, the song Page 3, had to be re-titled for single release as Another Day (Another Girl), after a court injunction by the Sun newspaper. The record was moderately successful, reaching #49 in the charts.
Towards the end of 1980, with Beat Boys doing well (#28 in the British album charts), the band embarked on a European tour, opening for the highly acclaimed band, Madness. 1981 brought a lineup change to the Lambrettas. To record their second album, Ambience, former drummer for Toyah Wilcox, Steve Bray, replaced Paul Wincer. Also, two tracks featured the saxophone playing of Wesley Magoogan of The Beat. Despite the album’s fine production values, and a more solid sound, it was not a success. The Lambrettas had tried to move on from their Mod image to reach a larger audience, but failed to do so.
Throughout 1981, singles taken from the new album continued to be released, but the band were unable to capture the ear of the British public. Another lineup change occurred, this time Pat Freyne replacing Steve Bray on drums.
In early 1982, the Lambrettas decided to record another cover version, the Jefferson Airplane song from the 1960s, Somebody To Love. Despite much radio exposure, the song did not chart.
The band's last concert (their 123rd) was at The Venue, London, on April 14, 1982 . Shortly after this, they parted ways with Rocket Records, and also with each other.
The Lambrettas released two albums (Beat Boys and Ambience), and eight singles, from late 1979 to the middle of 1982. A compilation of the singles, called Kick Start, was released in 1985.
The complete recordings of the band are available on CD.
Singer Jez Bird passed away, age 50, in August of 2008, leaving a wife and 2 children. Bassist Mark Ellis lives in Los Angeles. As of August 2009, Guitarist Doug Sanders and drummer Paul Wincer are performing as "The Lambrettas", Sanders taking over as lead vocalist.
The Lambrettas website has photographs, discography, message board, memorabilia, sound file samples of songs, scans of album covers, scans of all the singles' picture sleeves (including various European versions), lyrics to most of the songs, 2 promotional Lambs videos from 1980, one Top of the Pops video peformance, and 3 live performance videos: